Response Styles in Answering Scale Items By Older Respondents: The Role of Biographical, Contextual and Cultural Aspects

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:06
Oral Presentation
Wander VAN DER VAART, University of Humanistic Studies, Netherlands
Tina GLASNER, University of Humanistic Studies, Netherlands
To enhance data quality in survey research it’s a common rule to combine positively and negatively worded items in one scale. Alternation of both types of items urges respondents to read more carefully and seeks to reduce response styles like acquiescence and satisficing. However, since negative items are harder to process than positive items and alternation is more burdensome, such balanced scales might also stimulate response styles. This may be true especially for respondents with reduced cognitive or motivational capacities. Accordingly our study examines the occurrence of response styles in an older population. Background and contextual features are explored to gain insight in the underlying mechanisms of response styles.

A split-ballot experiment was performed on 397 inhabitants from Dutch senior residences. For two different scales - ‘meaning in life scale’ and ‘self-reliance’- respondents randomly obtained one out of two versions: a scale with positive and negative items combined, or a scale with positively phrased items only. Ten senior residences were selected as to cover different regions in the Netherlands and to obtain a variety in residence size (36 to 335 inhabitants). All 1259 inhabitants were send a questionnaire; resulting in N=397 (31% response); age ranged from 46 to 99 years.

Analysis focused on data quality indicators like straight lining, item non-response, number of valid cases, and further aspects of scale reliability and validity. Differences in response style between age groups were established and explored. First, it is examined whether differences in social biographical characteristics of the age groups are related to response style and whether they can be interpreted as subcultural differences. Second, it is studied whether senior residences with relatively younger versus older populations, show contextual and cultural features that may further explain difference in response style.